Sleep deprived and tired from lugging my heavy backpack around and through the train station, I think about the day before.
I imagined what it must have been like to be packed up as I was with my pack of clothes, necessities and special belongings, loaded onto a train with my family and friends in such a deceitful manner to later be unloaded to a horrible and terrifying death.
Still recuperating from visiting Auschwitz, I am humbled every step of the way of our journey and more. No words can truly describe the horrible atrocities that happened to the millions of people during WWII nor the feelings that I feel in response to visiting the camp. I feel sick to my stomach, uneasy and upset thinking about how it was all possible.
I find myself wanting to avoid these thoughts but then remember a quote that was hung at one of the entrances of the buildings in the camp that says, “The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again.” A good reminder that just because it makes me uncomfortable does not mean I should not inform myself about what happened.
As I step up onto the train, I push the memory aside and scan the narrow hallway for my cabin aboard the overnight train. I had imagined it would be similar to the Harry Potter train on its way to Hogwarts. I was surprised to find a very small cabin with six bunks to sleep in and only minor storage space. To be honest, the first thirty minutes were horrible. We had to cram six women into one cabin, plus our multiple overflowing enormous suitcases.
Six bunks. Six women. And the same all along the rest of the train car, six people per cabin. All sleep deprived and cranky, which had us trying to keep our frustrations with each other, the space and the shock of the situation under control. However, we failed more than we were successful. Once we settled in, curled and hunched over in our bunks, everyone soon retreated to the hallway to chat and move around more freely. We pulled the windows down as we sped through Poland and into Hungary.
Once in Budapest (or Buda-ful, as a fun spin on its name), I was met with another magical city filled with castles and churches reaching toward the sky. On my second day, I visited the Szechenyi baths, the largest thermal pools in Budapest on the Pest-side of the city. The pools were large stretches of water of different temperatures, lazy-river areas and all surrounded by statues and enclosed in a beautiful architectural courtyard. The sun was warm, the water cool, and a pop up bar for refreshments sat near the edge of the pools.
Inside the building, surrounding the pools, were a variety of smaller different temperature pools. There was a dry sauna with ice cold pools, room temperature pools, and Jacuzzi-hot pools along with smaller saunas throughout. The whole area was enormous. A large number of students in my program came together and also met other travelers and locals. We even met other San Diegans, which was quite interesting and a little reminder of what a small world we share.
The city being so large, I traveled around on a very touristy hop-on-hop-off bus. I traveled from the Pest side to the Buda side of the city and took a boat tour to Margaret Island with a few other girls. The island in the Danu River featured a beautiful views of the two sides of the city’s skyline with castles and beautiful architecture. Buildings with colorful ceramic tile roofs sparkled in the hot sunlight and added a playful beauty to the city on either side.
Margaret Island is full of greenery, bicyclists, pubs and cafes. As I exited the boat and stepped onto the island, I saw water shooting into the sky. Approaching the water, I heard music. There were people lined around a bright blue cement pond. My friends and I joined them, toes and feet dipped into the water’s cool edge. As the water shot into the sky, the music followed, coordinating the sounds with the movement of the water in an amazing water show. Following the show we ran down to the river’s edge, wading in the very chilly Danu River before heading back to the boat.
Following our full and eventful day, my friends and I enjoyed the nightlife and met a group of Italian travelers with whom we spent hours trying to communicate. Between seven people, we spoke a total four different languages, all of which we used in broken bits and pieces. We spoke English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese to very slowly communicate, yet we all had a unique and enjoyable time.
Never would I have thought, before going on this trip, that a language barrier could make for so much fun. It is interesting to see the impact non-verbal communication can have between different cultures. I can now appreciate the importance of being knowledgeable in other languages different from my own. Returning home, I think I am going to have a better appreciation for studying foreign languages.
Budapest is another favorite destination on my trip thus far. The city is full of young people, festivals and shopping, beer gardens and exciting nightlife and beautiful sites. It is a city rich with centuries of history.